2 years ago an actor from Bollywood made a statement that forced people to go back and refer ancient Indian history and Hindu scriptures. A few people claimed that the statement was made with an intention to promote the movie. Actors often make controversial statements before a movie release. But this was nowhere close to controversial. It just made a reference to the Rigveda and Hanuman Chalisa. The actor said that the first International aeroplane could find references in ancient Hindu scriptures and the Hanuman Chalisa.
An Indian born in 1864, was the first to have given shape and air to an unmanned aeroplane in 1895. This was 8 years prior to the claim of the Wright brothers, that they were the first ones globally to fly a plane. Shivkar Bapuji Talpade (1864-1916) was a scholar in Sanskrit literature and the Vedas. He hailed from the city of Mumbai (then, Bombay). Talpade was from the Pathara Prabhu community. The people from the Pathara Prabhu community were settled in Bombay from the very beginning.
Chiranjilal Verma was Talpade’s teacher and the reason for Talpade to read Swami Dayanand Sarawati’s works related to ancient aeronautics. Verma was Talpade’s teacher at Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art. Verma led Talpade to Swami Dayanand Sarawati’s works such as ‘Rig Vedadic Bhashya Bhumika’ and ‘Rigved and Yajurveda Bhasya’. Some sources also suggest that Talpade’s work was based on the work done by Maharishi Bharat in Rigveda. Talpade was inspired by these ancient vehicle scriptures. He started learning the Vedic Sanskrit language and decided to construct the Vedic Vimana described in the Vedas.
Talpade also studied the works of great brains like Thomas Alva Edison. Edison flew a balloon and it was one of the initial achievements in the field of aviation. Pratap Velkar in his book on Pathare Prabhu community said that Talpade studied the achievements of Edison and machine gun inventor Hiram Maxim, who made a captive steam – driven aircraft. Talpade had all the information and the motivation to fly. He was building a machine that could strike the Eagle pose.
Talpade’s plane was named Marutsakha. Marut means ‘air’ in Sanskrit and Sakha refers to friend. Marutsakha, together would mean the friend of wind. There was no proper media coverage when Talpade came up with the invention. However, one particular Marathi newspaper Kesari has contemporary reports on the same. Dr D.K Kanjilal’s 1985 Vimana in Ancient India: Aeroplanes or Flying Machines in Ancient India suggests that Marutsakha is inspired from Vimana, ancient flying machines in Hindu scriptures.
One of Talpade’s students Pt. S. D Satawlekar wrote about Marutsakha sustaining flight for a few minutes. KRN Swamyhad written about the curious and scholarly audience that had the good fortune of witnessing Marutsakha take off, fly to a height of 1500 feet and then fall down to earth. The presence of a renowned Indian judge and a nationalist, Mahadev Govind Ranade and Sayaji Rao Gaekwad III, during the take off, is cited in “Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute”.
A model reconstruction of Marutsakha was exhibited at an aviation exhibition in Vile Parle. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has preserved documents related to the experiment. The movie based on Talpade’s life and invention released in 2015, Hawaizaada starred Ayushman Khurrana in the lead role. The actor I was referring to in the first paragraph was Mithun Chakraborty. He essayed the role of Pandit Subbaraya Shastri, Talpade’s mentor. He also played an important part in inspiring Talpade and persisting with the invention without being affected by the fear of failure.